The number of employees taking holidays in April fell by two-thirds compared to last year, according to human resources consultancy Securex.
Clearly the Covid-19 pandemic was the main cause, with many if not most holiday destination shut down and travel restrictions in place.
Employees will have the opportunity to take the leave owed to them later in the year, Securex said, but that presents a problem of its own: a massive explosion in demand once holidays again become an option.
This year, in the spring from January to March, the number of leave days taken up by manual workers was 4% lower than last year, while other employees took 2% more days.
But then came the lockdown in mid-March.
“This year, the percentage of days taken in April fell dramatically,” Securex said. Workers took 59% fewer days, and office workers 50% fewer.
“Many companies have only been able to start up again this month, but that’s not the case everywhere. As long as temporary unemployment remains possible and telework remains the norm for many employees, the need for holidays, especially in non-essential sectors, is lower than normal,” said Heidi Verlinden, in charge of research for Securex.
The summer holidays, at present, are no more secure than the Easter holidays were. Tourist organisations are pressing people to holiday in Belgium, but the situation for example at the Belgian coast remains uncertain. The provision of sports and other holiday camps for children remains to be worked out.
And if employees decide to cut back on their holiday allowances in the summer, the prospect then is that they will have almost a full year’s allowance stacked up for the latter half of the year – just at the time when companies would hope production might be starting its return to normal.
Securex is warning companies to be prepared for that eventuality. In the meantime, employees cannot be forced to take holidays at a time more suitable for the company. They can, however, refuse to accommodate those who have already booked their holiday leave and now want to change their dates.